In sports, sometimes inclement weather can be a good thing. Most times foul weather makes for bad field conditions or it makes handling a ball difficult, but for the Lake Norman Charter swim teams, winter storms gave them the element of surprise.
"We didn't have the conference meet because of snow," said Lake Norman Charter swim coach Alison Pick. The next week was supposed to be the inaugural 1A/ 2A regional meet, but that also didn't happen because of bad weather.
"No one knew us," said Pick.
And so it was a team of unknowns in their second year with a swim team that had both their men's and women's team finish third in the state.
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"After the preliminary session, I had to hand in my paperwork, coaches were stopping to ask me, 'Where is your school at?,'" said a smiling Pick.
"It was a good feeling being able to go to the state meet. It was our first time. We definitely made some heads turn."
This season, teams know the name Lake Norman Charter, and where they are located. Pick no longer has the element of surprise, but what she does have is a team that until this year never had seniors.
Brian Piccirilli was a team captain last season as a sophomore. He returns this year to lead the team with co-captain Matt Wronsky.
"I only require my year-round swimmers to come to practice once a week," said Pick, "But even when Brian's not practicing he comes around to help out. He's very supportive to his teammates."
Piccirilli finished fifth in the state in the 100 butterfly, and joined Wronsky, Peter Brumm and Grayson Spittel on the 400-yard freestyle relay team that finished second place.
"My year-round swimmers are all versatile," said Pick of Piccirilli and Wronsky. "You can plug them anywhere."
"Matt keeps the men's team on track; he's a leader by example. He gets in the water and does what needs to be done."
Brumm, the state champion in the 100-yard butterfly, transferred to Hough.
"Peter Brumm was a big leader for us last season," said Pick. Filling the hole left by Brumm will be a few new faces, including freshman Brian Davis, who Pick says can "swim a bit of everything."
In her second year as head coach at Lake Norman Charter, Pick admits her team has benefited from great club teams in the area. Having coached 11- and 12-years-olds with the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club for the last six years, Pick also has the added bonus of familiarity, having coached some of her athletes, and opponents in the past. With swimming, unlike any other sport, the Knights train in the same pool at the same time with at least three other area teams.
"It's the nature of the beast," she said. "With limited pool space, we all work together to get what we need for the team. And since we all train together, we all know who we will swim, and what we need to do."
Though pool space is limited, a successful year last season has afforded the Knights more lane space, and allowed them to get some new equipment.
"Having a team that does well has benefits all around," said Pick. "Last year's success spurred interest and gave the school recognition."
It also made her team very popular. To start the season, Pick had a sign-up sheet with 75 names. Though she tries to keep as many athletes as possible, she has to cap the team at 50 due to lane space.
On the girls' side, that 50 includes sophomore Abbey Joiner, third in the state in both the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley.
"Abbey can swim anything," said Pick. "She has her eyes set on standing on top of that podium this year... and she has a real shot at being a state champion."
Though they are a young team, the Knights are also a veteran team. Seniors Meaghan Noble and Tia Fish are two leaders Pick will be sorry to see go at the end of this season.
"Before the season even started the girls had organized practices, and were in the water swimming," she said. "They invest lot of time to help the team be successful."
And the Knights are poised to have a successful season again this year.
"Our women's team doesn't have the depth our men's team does, but they could be a solid top three finisher again," said Pick.
She's expecting her boys' team to have a pretty electric year.
"If things fall into place, I feel we have a real shot at winning states."